How to Use Empathy to Get What You Want in a Negotiation

Our ability to show empathy is what helps us forge meaningful relationships with others, but did you know that empathy can also impact the decision making process? The truth is, empathy can actually impact the motives of those around you and the art of negotiation often relies on an approach known as tactical empathy. Therefore, we can apply basic psychology to learn how to be strategically empathetic during the negotiation process in order to achieve our desired outcome. 

What is Tactical Empathy?

Tactical empathy is an approach centered around deeply listening and connecting with your counterpart rather than aggressively disagreeing with them or trying to persuade them. Though there is a time and a place to play hardball, many successful negotiators prefer a more collaborative approach that incorporates thoughtfulness and empathy. When you build trust with your counterpart, you can then use this trusting relationship to secure deals. 

How Empathy Can Be Used in Negotiations

Tactical empathy consists of several different negotiation strategies, all of which are intended to build trusting relationships and give your counterpart the illusion that they are in control. After all, successful negotiations happen where there is simply the perception of mutual gains. The purpose of tactical empathy is to work toward what appears to be a win-win outcome for both parties. Here are some ways to employ tactical empathy during negotiations. 


Demonstrate that you are acting in good faith. The idea is to show the other party that you seek a solution that will benefit them. You are not there to exploit or deceive them, but rather to help them. 


Show a genuine interest in the other party. Take time to find out what is driving the other party. What are their goals, objectives, motivations, and fears? Actively listen to them and seek to understand their perspective. This helps to build an authentic connection which will ultimately lead to a better outcome for both parties. 


Work to dispel negative feelings. Try to diffuse any feelings of anger, mistrust, suspicion, or fear. Talk to the other party about their feelings and find out why they might be experiencing negative emotions. Then, work to deactivate those emotions by building reassurance and trust. 


Aim for positive emotions. Look for ways to appeal to your counterpart’s emotions and build mutual understanding. Try to be a source of comfort and build a rapport so you can both work together to reach your goals.